Therapist Explains Why Siblings Who Grew Up In A Toxic Home Wind Up So Different—You're Either An 'Orchid' Or A 'Dandelion'

She labels herself as an "orchid child." But what exactly does that mean?

A hypnotherapist explains the difference between a child who is a “dandelion” and an “orchid.” TikTok

Siblings growing up to be entirely different people is not a new idea. Some become driven and successful while their sibling lags and doesn’t reach the same heights.

But why is that the case? If they both grew up in the same household, attended the same school, and were often surrounded by the same people, what makes many siblings so different from each other? One hypnotherapist used her own life, bolstered by a child psychology theory, to explain why that’s the case.


She explained why children grow up to be either 'orchids' or 'dandelions' — and the reason stems from childhood abuse.

Judy Lee is a hypnotherapist who posts psychology advice to the video-sharing app TikTok. She labels herself as an “orchid,” per her username @theorchidchild. In a recent post, she posed the question, “Why is that siblings with similar trauma cope differently?”

“If you were raised in an unsafe household and you have a brother or sister, I want you to ask yourself, ‘Is one of you guys way more sensitive than the other?’” she said.

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Lee clarified that she doesn’t just mean sensitive when it comes to emotions, but also when it comes to “sound,” “food,” “allergies” — and other aspects of one’s environment. In graduate school, Lee learned the terms to denote siblings with differing sensitivities. 

“Somebody who is highly resilient in an abusive household is called a ‘dandelion child.’ They can basically thrive in any environment like the flower, the dandelion,” she said.

On the other end of the spectrum is an “orchid child,” who shares the properties of the delicate yet stunning flower.


“They can actually wilt or wither away in an abusive environment or thrive and do really well in a positive one,” she said.

Lee elaborated that people’s initial perception of the two different types of children is that one is much preferable to the other. Who wouldn’t want to be a resilient dandelion who will grow no matter what? But it’s important to think of the properties of an orchid. Even though they require better conditions to blossom when they do, they are more remarkable than the dandelion. 

Evidence suggests that if an “orchid child” is removed from the unsafe environment into a healthier one, then they can “surpass” the “dandelion child,” according to Lee. “The moral of the story is that as ‘orchid children,’ it becomes doubly more important for us to find a beautiful community to be a part of,” she said.

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People shared their own experiences, supporting the theory.

Many in the comments shared their childhood experiences and how they compared to their siblings. One person described how their sister overcame the trauma by shifting into a positive environment.

“My sister is an orchid and I’m a dandelion, she suffered at my parents' house — she’s in a safe and happy marriage now, watching her thrive is amazing,” one person wrote.

“I think I’m the orchid while my brother is the dandelion. I cope by blaming myself he copes by blaming everybody else,” another person added. So, where does this idea come from?

Dr. W. Thomas Boyce, a pediatrician and professor at the University of California, San Francisco, published a book in 2019 called “The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Sensitive People Struggle and How All Can Thrive.” He termed the coins to describe the two types of siblings and owes his fascination with this topic to his sister, who he defines as an “orchid.” 


He conducted studies showing that “relatively non-reactive children” were less susceptible to stress-related illnesses from high-stress conditions. Dr. Boyce emphasizes that “steadfast love” is important for an “orchid child” to blossom.

So, if you have any “orchids” in your life or are one yourself, ensure them there is a lot of love!

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Ethan Cotler is a writer living in Boston. He writes on entertainment and news.